Physical and mental integrity

Elaborating a legal instrument to protect the human rights and dignity of persons with mental disorders with regard to involuntary placement and/or involuntary treatment

The deprivation of liberty involved in involuntary placement and treatment impacts on a person’s right to freedom from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (Article 3), right to liberty (Article 5), and the right to respect for private life (Article 8) as enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights. In this connection, Article 5 of the Oviedo Convention refers to the principle of free and informed consent for any medical treatment. Article 7 of the Oviedo Convention constitutes an exception to the general rule of consent for the protection of persons who have a mental disorder. To this end, three conditions must be satisfied: the person must have a serious mental health problem; the treatment must aim to alleviate the mental health problem; and without treatment of the mental health problem, serious harm to their health is likely to result. More recently, Recommendation Rec(2004)10 of the Committee of Ministers has detailed the conditions under which a person may be subjected to compulsory medical treatment (Article 18) and the conditions for involuntary treatment (Article 19). The Steering Committee for Human Rights in the fields of Biomedicine and Health seeks to build on its previous work in this area to ensure that involuntary detention of persons is a last resort and, in this case, when strictly necessary, that the human rights and dignity of patients are consistently and effectively upheld.

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